One of the groups at the gathering of United Methodists from throughout the world for their legislative meeting in Tampa, April 24-May 4 is the Renewal and Reform Coalition.They oppose any change in the United Methodist language and legislation –such as "The practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching," and United Methodist clergy are prohibited from performing union or marriage services for same sex couples. The group released a statement on April 13 that was titled "Should United Methodists agree to disagree on homosexuality?" They are opposed to any official acknowledgement that there are different opinions among United Methodists on gay rights and marriage equality. Their statement includes these words: "Homosexuality is not the most important issue before the church, but it is the most divisive, and the one that can rip apart the United Methodist Church, just as it has The United Church of Christ, The Episcopal Church in the U.S., The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America and most recently, The Presbyterian Church (USA).”
I was disturbed enough by the suggestion that the issue of homosexuality has "ripped apart" The United Church of Christ and other church bodies that I contacted the United Church of Christ. I received a response from Andy Lang, the executive director of the UCC Coalition for LGBT Concerns and in his response he wrote this:
"I would not agree that the United Church of Christ has been ‘ripped apart’ by our discussion about LGBT inclusion. That's partly because the conversation has never been about "homosexuality", but whether God's LGBT children are welcome in our fellowship and whether their faithful and ethically-responsible relationships deserve to be treated with respect rather than contempt."
And he said this, “It is important for United Methodists who are fearful of loss of membership to hear, we're learning from experience that when a congregation publicly welcomes LGBT believers, their growth reflects not only the addition of new LGBT members but also young straight couples who are starting a family. A congregation that accepts all people in one Body of Christ is what they are looking for, both for themselves and their children."
The 10 million plus United Methodist Church must understand that it will not be "ripped apart" if it accepts and affirms clergy and lay people in same sex relationships.
See all of Gil's blog posts about the United Methodist General Conference while the UMC legislative body meets in Tampa April 24-May 4.